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Mariel Vandegrift Wins the J. Applegate Award for Outstanding Student in Wildlife Conservation

Mariel Vandegrift
Mariel Vandegrift

I originally showed up to SEBS advising day with the idea that I was going to major in Biology, but I was lucky enough to have Dr. Mr. Sukhdeo as my advisor. He told me if I wasn’t interested in medical school, then majoring in biology would be a waste of time and I should do Ecology instead. I panicked and agreed with him and 4 years later here I’m here to say he was right. I knew I liked the outdoors, but it was 2 years later, when I ended up in Dr. Russell’s lab, where I really fell in love with Ecology.

It was those random fieldwork days throughout the summer, visiting powerline easements on the sides of highways and in people’s backyards, then coming home covered in sunburn and ticks, with a bag full of dead bees, that made me realize that this is what I wanted to do. I developed a love for research and spending time outdoors that pushed me to take every ecology lab I could and do research with any professor who would have me. But it was research on these powerline easements, and a handful of classes that followed, like dendrology, that inspired my interest in how to integrate high quality wildlife habitat into a human dominated landscape. This year, I was lucky enough to conduct my own research on the pollinator response to invasive species management, along some of Dr. Russell’s powerline easements.

I plan to pursue a career in habitat restoration and invasive species management or pollinator ecology. In the long term, I plan to return to school for a PhD so I can continue to study Ecology and conduct my own research.

June 2023